Should I buy Apple Watch Series 3?

The Apple Watch Series 3 is still worth it if you want the basic essentials

Apple Watch Series 3
(Image credit: Apple)

Released on September 22, 2017, the Apple Watch Series 3 is three years old now. Yet, this fourth-generation model has outlasted the Series 4 and Series 5, joining Apple’s 2020 line-up of watches as the newly-christened entry-level smartwatch.

Apple’s reason behind that decision might be production costs – it costs them less to make, yet it will still generate a profit even at a much cheaper price tag. Of course, it’s not just Apple that benefits from it. Now at $199, it’s cheaper than the two new models, giving consumers with a limited budget a much more affordable entry into the Apple Watch line.

Still, is the Apple Watch Series 3 worth buying now that the Series 6 and SE are out, touting upgraded specs and newer features? The short answer is yes. But, that’s only if the basic essentials are enough to satisfy you. 

 Who Is The Apple Watch Series 3 For? 

 With a cheaper price, the Apple Watch Series 3 is definitely for the bargain hunters, from previous-generation Apple Watch owners looking to upgrade their aging models without having to spend more than $250 on a new one to those who just want to get into the Apple Watch line for cheap.

However, since cheaper doesn’t actually mean good value, the question must be asked: is the Series 3 the best value for your money? That greatly depends on what you need. If you don’t need all the fancy frills and a back-to-basics Apple Watch is more than good enough for your needs, then most definitely.

On the other hand, if you need vital, life-saving functions like ECG, Blood Oxygen detection, Fall Detection and even a compass, then you should be shelling out a couple of hundred dollars more for the Series 6. (Or even the SE if you can do without the ECG and Blood Oxygen app.)

Apple Watch Series 3

(Image credit: Apple)

Should You Buy The Apple Watch Series 3: Key Features 

Essential Apple Watch features like making calls and payments, sending out text messages, getting notifications, tracking your workouts and activities, playing music and utilizing Siri are on hand in the Apple Watch Series 3.

Much like the SE and Series 6, it also has a display with 1000 nits of brightness, water-resistance up to 50 meters, battery life rated by Apple to deliver up to 18 hours of use and the slew of Apple Watch accessories it’s compatible with. It’s also just as capable of sending high and low heart rate notifications, irregular heart rhythm alerts and emergency SOS. And, like the SE, it has the same 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi connection and is only available in the Aluminum finish (although SE does have one more color option: Gold).

It also has an altimeter, GPS to pinpoint your actual location and an accelerometer that measures up to 16 g-forces, as well as a gyroscope and an ambient light sensor. It can even track menstrual cycles and unlock your Mac.

Since it’s compatible with watchOS 7, it’ll have many of the new functionalities and apps that the latest watchOS is bringing to the table, including the felicitous hand-washing detector, sleep tracker and language translator.

In other words, the Series 3 is still a highly-capable smartwatch in its own right, boasting all the key fitness, health and connectivity features that made the Apple Watch line so popular in the first place. 

Apple Watch Series 3

(Image credit: Apple)

Should You Buy The Apple Watch Series 3: The Downsides 

What you won’t find on the Apple Watch Series 3, however, are the features newer to Apple Watch flagships like the ECG app, Digital Crown with haptic feedback, Fall Detection, compass, improved speaker, Noise Monitoring, and second-generation optical heart sensor. It also won’t have the Blood Oxygen app that Series 6 has introduced in 2020.

Whether or not this is a downside entirely depends on preference, but the Series 3 does have smaller faces – 38mmm and 42mm – as well as smaller display areas. It also does not have Series 6’s Always-On retina display feature, which again is a matter of preference.

Because it’s a 2017 model, it also has the much older Apple S3 system-on-chip (we’re now on S6, which is up to 70% much faster). This means that the Series 3 will be much slower when running apps, and it won’t be capable of handling a handful of the watchOS 7 features. It only has 8GB of storage space as well, a meager amount next to the 32GB of storage that the 2020 models have. It’s also stuck on Bluetooth 4.2, though Bluetooth 5 is backward-compatible so this isn’t a big issue.

Sadly, the Series 3’s cellular models are gone. International emergency calling and Family Set-Up features are, therefore, unavailable. You also won’t have the option to leave your iPhone at home when you’re going on a hike or a run – this might be a bit of a deal-breaker to many potential buyers.

Apple Watch Series 3

(Image credit: Apple)

Should You Buy The Apple Watch Series 3: Verdict 

There may be several new features that the Apple Watch Series 3 is missing. However, its list of shortcomings isn’t so long to make upgrading (and spending up to $300 more) worth it for many, especially those in the budget-conscious crowd. In fact, even without those new features, it’s still an incredible smartwatch that does everything most people expect from the Apple Watch line, and then some.

So, really, whether or not you should buy the Series 3 boils down to two things: future-proofing and how critical those new features are to your day-to-day. 

With its aging chip, low storage capacity, and older Bluetooth standard, the Series 3 is not very future-proof – unsurprising as it is three years old. In a year or so, it won’t be powerful enough to handle newer updates that Apple will roll out. It might not even be compatible with the next watchOS. If you end up replacing it then to take advantage of those updates, you might as well spend a little more now.

Similarly, if having an ECG, Blood Oxygen detection, Fall Detection, and even a compass could mean the difference between life and death to you – whether you’re a long-distance hiker, a senior, or someone with serious health concerns – then it’s not for you.

However, to the rest of us economizing folks who don’t require those life-saving functionalities or don’t have to have the latest and greatest tech, the Apple Watch Series 3 is the way to go.

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Michelle Rae Uy

Michelle Rae Uy is a tech and travel journalist, editor and photographer with a bad case of wanderlust. She is a regular contributor for IGN, TechRadar and Business Insider, and has contributed to Thrillist, Paste Magazine, Nylon, Fodor's and Steve's Digicams. Living mainly in California with her adorable cats, she splits her time between Los Angeles, London and the rest of the world.